An introduction to the importance of intellect in the Qur’an

This is an introductory article, the first of a series of upcoming articles introducing the reader to the importance of using one’s intellect as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. The basis for writing this article is based on several points raised at a gathering of women in Lahore, Pakistan. At this event, the main speaker gave an address where she raised a point that “we do not believe in wisdom nor are we seekers of wisdom. Wisdom is sought only by school, college and university students. We Madrasa people only say آمنا و صدقنا (we verify and we believe). We are not permitted to think about it and ponder or consider how it is!”

If we think about what was said, by following this view we would eventually lose our faith.

She went on to say, “If we use our intellect and use reasoning then we will be severely punished in the grave. How do you use the intellect in the Qur’an? The Qur’an is a book of faith. Where is the work of intellect in this and what does the Qur’an have to do with intellect?”

During this event, various counter arguments were presented regarding the Qur’an and the importance of intellect, which will be discussed.


The importance of the intellect is emphasised in the Holy Qur’an. Allah (SWT) has placed a significant importance and favour for mankind in using their intellect, as well as it being one of His great gifts bestowed upon us. Using our intellect has been mentioned over a thousand times in the Holy Qur’an. Unfortunately, people are often told that they cannot use their intellect in matters relating to the understanding of the Qur’an. They claim that the commands Allah (SWT) has ordered in the Qur’an must be followed as is, without question. No further analysis or understanding is necessary. In other words, trying to understand the Qur’an is beyond our comprehension, so we must accept it as it is.

From one point of view, this may be a valid argument from the perspective of those who are beginners who do not have the requisite knowledge or experience to analyse or deduce verses of the Qur’an. They may be considered  laymen, similarly to one starting out in a new field who is expected to accept without question, everything that is taught to them by those more experienced or experts in their field.

But who we are referring to are those who may be considered as adept individuals, where a different set of criteria and principles are applied to them in regards to matters relating to the understanding of the Qur’an. These are not for the layman, rather, this is of a sophisticated level of knowledge where the use of one’s intellect is essential.

Definition of adept people

First meaning

There are a variety of definitions when it comes to adept people. One definition is the meaning, methods and timescales used for classifying each category of person.

The first category of people is those analysing and looking into the understanding of the Qur’an according to our current era and way of life. They analyse from the perspective of the situation we are in now, the political system that surrounds us, our own biases and opinions which are also based on our sectarian divisions. The timescale goes as far back as this time period, approximately one or two generations.

The second category of people also take into account the situation and events of the Umayyad and Abbasid-era caliphates and the political system of that time. From this perspective, we also look at the sects that arose at that time and their arguments as well as the responses to them.

The third category of people take into account the conditions of other religions at the time of revelation of the Qur’an, their questions and their answers. With this knowledge and understanding, our international issues of the modern era are also connected to that time because when we connect with other nations and faiths today, we look back as to what should be the method of reading and understanding the Holy Qur’an at that time and how to apply it now.

Second meaning

The other view on the definition of adept people is their thinking and experience used for classifying each level of understanding.

When thinking or pondering over an issue, we do so internally within our own limits and experience which is the basic level of understanding.

The second level of understanding is when pondering over or raising an issue, to expand from one’s own thinking and views and to consult one’s own society such as an Imam or a scholar of the local Muslim community to obtain their views.

The third level of understanding expands further to those globally, not only Muslims but people of other religions, countries, disciplines and in various fields such as humanities, science and technology. Although the use of intellect should be present in all three levels of understanding, it is imperative in the third level, i.e. globally, due to the diverse disciplines, fields and people. Otherwise, our references and proofs will not be accepted by them and will be further scrutinised.

When dealing with the third level of understanding, it can be seen that the use of intellect is of utmost importance and the Qur’an encourages us to ascertain if something makes sense or not. Apart from those things that are yet to be discovered, as breakthroughs take place, mankind’s understanding behind these discoveries is enhanced through research and ensuring it makes sense.

For the layman, breakthroughs are conveyed in a simple manner which are accepted and followed. In the same way, the sayings in the Qur’an are absolute truth and should be believed and followed as in the first level of understanding.

Opening remarks

The main point we want to discuss is related to the third level of understanding where many of the attributes that Allah (SWT) possesses, from them, many qualities have been given to His servants. This is emphasised in many verses in the Qur’an but we will provide a few examples.

Surah An-Nahl:

وَاللَّهُ أَخرَجَكُم مِن بُطونِ أُمَّهاتِكُم لا تَعلَمونَ شَيئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَالأَفئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُم تَشكُرونَ
Allah brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing at all, and gave you hearing, sight and hearts so that perhaps you would show thanks. (16:78)

Surah As-Sajdah:

ثُمَّ سَوّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فيهِ مِن روحِهِ ۖ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَالأَفئِدَةَ ۚ قَليلًا ما تَشكُرونَ
Then formed him and breathed His Ruh into him and gave you hearing, sight and hearts. What little thanks you show! (32:9)

Surah Al-Insan:

إِنّا خَلَقنَا الإِنسانَ مِن نُطفَةٍ أَمشاجٍ نَبتَليهِ فَجَعَلناهُ سَميعًا بَصيرًا
We created man from a mingled drop to test him, and We made him hearing and seeing. (76:2)

Surah Al-Isra’:

وَلا تَقفُ ما لَيسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمعَ وَالبَصَرَ وَالفُؤادَ كُلُّ أُولٰئِكَ كانَ عَنهُ مَسئولًا
Do not pursue what you have no knowledge of. Hearing, sight and hearts will all be questioned. (17:36)

Surah Al-Mu’minun:

وَهُوَ الَّذي أَنشَأَ لَكُمُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَالأَفئِدَةَ ۚ قَليلًا ما تَشكُرونَ
It is He Who has created hearing, sight and hearts for you. What little thanks you show! (23:78)

Surah Al-Mulk:

قُل هُوَ الَّذي أَنشَأَكُم وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَالأَفئِدَةَ ۖ قَليلًا ما تَشكُرونَ
Say: ‘It is He Who brought you into being and gave you hearing, sight and hearts. What little thanks you show!’ (67:23)

Surah Al-Yunus:

قُل مَن يَرزُقُكُم مِنَ السَّماءِ وَالأَرضِ أَمَّن يَملِكُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَمَن يُخرِجُ الحَيَّ مِنَ المَيِّتِ وَيُخرِجُ المَيِّتَ مِنَ الحَيِّ وَمَن يُدَبِّرُ الأَمرَ ۚ فَسَيَقولونَ اللَّهُ ۚ فَقُل أَفَلا تَتَّقونَ
Say: ‘Who provides for you out of heaven and earth? Who controls hearing and sight? Who brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living? Who directs the whole affair?’ They will say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘So will you not be god fearing?’ (10:31)

When we read these verses, we see that when Allah (SWT) created His servants and the endowment He bestowed upon them, the will and intellect is His greatest blessing and this is what differentiates man from all other creatures.

For example, in the beginning of Surah Mu’minun (23:12 – 23:14), there is a running theme  which is echoed by Dr. Maurice Bucaille in his book 1 where he states that when anything is created that has life, all of the processes of its creation and stages of its coming to being, are exactly the same for human creation. In the initial stages when a mammal is developing, it is identical for a land animal, a bird or a human being.

The initial stages are related to physical life, for example, eating, drinking and sleeping. The human body is a system that runs together which is why man is also called an animal. In this sense, humans are animals but there comes a stage following on from the initial stage where a human is given intellect, consciousness, and intention. He is given thinking, understanding and a mind. When this is given to man, he is distinct from all other creatures and because of this; Allah (SWT) has given mankind the status of His viceroy.

In the first three verses of Surah Al-Insan, it has been explained in great detail that everything will be annihilated and man will be immortal. Man’s life continues, death is not the end, and he will be resurrected. Therefore, if he uses his intellect and consciousness in this world, aligns his soul with the words of Allah (SWT) and the words of the Holy Prophet (SAW), the individual develops a worldly life according to guidance. This means controlling desires, purity both inwardly and outwardly, and the result of that will be an uncomplicated hereafter.

This theme is described in the opening verses of Surah Al-Insan and runs throughout this Surah. Even greater is that it has been stated throughout the Qur’an that man is not mortal but will remain immortal in the Hereafter.

Hearing and sight

From the verses mentioned above, three things are specifically mentioned; hearing, sight and reasoning from the heart. سمع means to hear and بصر is to see. That is, the information that comes to us in this world comes primarily from these two senses which we then use to process using our intellect and consciousness.

In both Surah Al-Isra (17:36) and Surah Al-Nahl (16:78), Allah (SWT) says that He created man and the three greatest blessings that He has given to them are listening, seeing and deducing from the heart. Allah (SWT) states that He will inquire about these blessings, how mankind used them, did they understand these gifts, and did they appreciate using them? Here, appreciation does not mean that one literally thanks Allah (SWT) verbally, but rather the notion of appreciation has many distinct and different meanings which will be explained in more detail further.

The heart

In Surah Al-Nahl (16:78), Allah (SWT) mentions that the first gift that He gave to man was hearing and sight. Look and listen to the universe, by seeing and hearing it, you will marvel and understand what the universe is, how it came into being and who created it.

A third benefit was given to man, which in Arabic is either فؤاد or قلب, but in English is the heart. These two Arabic words for the heart appear in many different verses within the Holy Qur’an. When a person sees or hears something, they reach a conclusion on whether it makes sense or not, and how or what its benefits and harms are. A person draws their conclusions only after listening and seeing something.

Allah (SWT) has given these three faculties to man, hearing, sight and the heart, in order to draw conclusions, and have been given to every human being. Allah (SWT) has sent man to this world to utilise it and to enhance it by using these faculties.

When man obtains the knowledge of these faculties bestowed upon him and is aware of them, he is able to see the signs of this world such as the sun, the moon, the stars and their role in this world. Some things are understood by mankind by seeing and some by listening. That is, Allah (SWT) has explained that mankind can speak out what is right and what is wrong when they come to this level of understanding.

In some situations, mankind determines what is right and what is wrong, but because their emotional state dominates, they come to the wrong conclusion during that time. His focus is limited to gaining temporary benefits rather than long term benefits. When he is blinded by limited and temporary gain, either because he is consumed by greed or wrongly attributing these temporary gains to personal freedom. Even though he sees and hears, he is unable to understand the situation in its entirety.

To control these emotions, Allah (SWT) sent the Prophets (peace be upon them) to guide mankind and sent the Final Prophet, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and revealed to him the Qur’an. Within the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) explained The Law. By laws, we are not referring to punishments when one transgresses but the laws of nature, not only of this world at the time of humanity but of the entire universe and all of the worlds. Allah (SWT) has explained in different places in the Qur’an that these laws of nature, revealed to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and conveyed to mankind, that if they genuinely believe this to be true to use their hearing, sight and heart, which will allow them to automatically come to the understanding that it is beneficial not only individually but for humanity and the whole world.

Whoever sincerely ponders over the Qur’an using their hearing and sight will come to the conclusion that what the Qur’an has said is correct. If someone claims otherwise, then one should understand that their personal biases or personal freedoms are at play.

The meaning of gratitude for the wise

There are three ways of expressing gratitude. Verbally stating it, gratitude from the heart and gratitude from one’s body.

Verbal thanks is to express gratitude using one’s tongue, for example, saying Alhamdulillah ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ. The meaning of heartfelt gratitude is to have faith and belief in the heart that the creator and owner of this universe is Allah (SWT) and He manages its affairs and all of these blessings belong to Him. The meaning of physical gratitude is to use whatever abilities a person has for oneself, family, societal, humanity and beyond. This is expressing gratitude using one’s body.

The meaning of expressing gratitude is how mankind has used these three blessings firstly for himself but then for societal, national, worldwide and universal benefit according to his or her ability. For we are not only talking about using these blessings within the dimensions of worship, but how these have been used in the entire aspect of one’s life. If one uses these blessings in accordance with the guidance of Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW) then he has thanked Allah (SWT) and if not, then he is ungrateful. This will be explained in more detail further on.

Allah (SWT) has explained in the Holy Qur’an the meaning of gratitude in regards to the blessing of hearing and sight. Through these blessings, you see and hear the world and through your heart you draw conclusions. Allah (SWT) explains further that the Qur’an, the Divine Speech of Allah (SWT), is solely for the benefit of mankind. It warns to avoid particular things and situations for the harm it can cause and contains unlimited benefits, so when mankind understands and accepts this guidance as a blessing given to them, it is as if they have thanked Me.

What is meant by thanking Allah (SWT) in the Qur’an? To thank Allah (SWT) does not mean to simply utter the words thanking Allah (SWT) literally. These are simply words uttered in a moment to express one’s feelings and one is rewarded for it. However the meaning of true gratitude is to come to a conclusion from hearing, seeing and within your heart that what is revealed in the Qur’an is the absolute truth and is a true benefit for the individual, society and the whole world. This is sincere gratitude.

In our experience, this matter has come up whenever we have spoken to people from the west regarding the verses of the Qur’an, especially those about faith and belief regarding monotheism, Prophethood and the Hereafter. Many people of today, like the polytheists of ancient times, do not believe in the Hereafter. When these verses of the Quran are presented to them such as Surah Al-’Ankabut (29:64), they admit that it makes sense and that the Hereafter should exist, regardless of whether the testimony of faith has been recited or not. The Qur’an has proven the counter argument rationally that they simply cannot deny it even as a disbeliever.

So from this we see that when one uses their hearing, sight and draws conclusions from the heart, it is also known as using one’s intellect and consciousness. Those things that are beneficial to you, you implement them and avoid those that cause harm. This is called consciousness. All of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an are based on intellect and the decrees of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), that is, the authentic hadith.

Authentic hadith are those that provide interpretation and explanation of the Holy Quran. A strong emphasis is given to authentic hadith because there are some hadith which are used by other sects who attribute them to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) for their own interests and personal gain. As people did for the kings of the time of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, some hadith were recorded in their honour, for their families and their tribes which are still present today in some books written by scholars. Some biassed hadith were those that people attributed for their opponents to humiliate them and there are some that were attributed in favour of their group, their tribe or their leader whom they believe to have the right to leadership. Therefore, by saying “Sahih” or authentic hadith, we are referring to such a hadith in which the goodness of a person for himself, his society, his family and humanity is mentioned. Except for the Prophet (SAW), or a Prophet’s (PBUH) sayings, no one can interject their own views or opinions is called an authentic hadith.

If you look at the whole world and listen to it, analyse it with your intellect and consciousness, then your heart will lead you to the conclusion beneficial for yourself, your society and for the whole world, that what the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) has said makes sense, because those authentic hadith that provide explanations and interpretations of verses of the Qur’an, are not contradictory nor is it from anything other than the Qur’an.

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was a walking Qur’an and brought the Qur’an into practical examples throughout his life through his actions, his character, his approach and his speech and taught us how to follow it.

Allah (SWT) has established so many signs and symbols in the world for His Oneness, for the authenticity of the Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and for the existence of the Hereafter, that if one were to attempt to count them it would be impossible. Allah (SWT) has explained this providing many arguments and evidence, one example being in Surah Al-Kahf:

قُل لَو كانَ البَحرُ مِدادًا لِكَلِماتِ رَبّي لَنَفِدَ البَحرُ قَبلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِماتُ رَبّي وَلَو جِئنا بِمِثلِهِ مَدَدًا
Say: ‘If all the sea were ink to write down the Words of my Lord, it would run out long before the Words of my Lord ran out,’ even if We were to bring the same amount of ink again. (18:109)

and another also in Surah Luqman:

وَلَو أَنَّما فِي الأَرضِ مِن شَجَرَةٍ أَقلامٌ وَالبَحرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِن بَعدِهِ سَبعَةُ أَبحُرٍ ما نَفِدَت كَلِماتُ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزيزٌ حَكيمٌ
If all the trees on earth were pens and all the sea, with seven more seas besides, were ink, Allah’s words still would not run dry. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (31:27)

Allah (SWT) states in these verses that everything is a proof of His existence and His Oneness. He sent the Prophets (PBUT) and what they revealed and said is proof of the truth. This world was not created without purpose nor created for play and spectacle as mentioned in Surah al-Hijr:

وَما خَلَقنَا السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضَ وَما بَينَهُما إِلّا بِالحَقِّ ۗ وَإِنَّ السّاعَةَ لَآتِيَةٌ ۖ فَاصفَحِ الصَّفحَ الجَميلَ
We did not create the heavens and earth and everything between them, except with truth. (15:85)

Everything has a lesson, a purpose and a day is fixed for mankind where they will either be successful or not. Those who are successful will be happy, their names will be remembered and those who fail will face shame on that day. This is a constant theme running through the Holy Quran which is described in every other verse in every surah.

The people of the third category: Those who contemplate over the Qur’an

Recall that the people of the third category take into account the conditions of other religions at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an. They also expand their understanding of the Qur’an by taking into account the views of a diverse set of peoples, religions, disciplines and backgrounds.

Allah (SWT) has given insight and sustenance to this category of people. Allah (SWT) has put love for Himself and His Beloved (PBUH) in their hearts, as well as the love of the Qur’an in their hearts. He has instilled the concern for the preparation of a placid Hereafter and the desire to contribute to the betterment of their families, their society, and humanity as a whole in their hearts.

When using their intellect in matters related to the Holy Qur’an, they do not consider that it is overbearing on their minds nor refuse to use their intellect to understand it. One of the major misconceptions in understanding the Quran is not to use the intellect or deeming it not necessary.

The qualities that Allah (SWT) has given to man is also from His attributes. Allah (SWT) is All-Hearing and All-Seeing and He has Divine Will. By this, we do not mean that He uses His intellect or conscience; we say that it is only His Will, His knowledge and this interpretation of Him is sufficient. Allah (SWT) has given these attributes to mankind so they may understand the message sent to them. When mankind uses their hearing and sight to analyse and understand what Allah (SWT) has sent, to contemplate over His creation, it makes perfect sense to them. This shows how much importance the intellect is emphasised in the Qur’an and many verse-endings in the Qur’an require one to pause and contemplate such as لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُون.

A thought-provoking point

There are many places within the Qur’an that one will pause and contemplate from what they have just read. During these moments, one will ponder over a verse-ending with the name of Allah (SWT), look at His name and the message that is being given in the current verse. They will look at the preceding verse and establish the link of the message running within these two verses. Why has His blessed name appeared here? When you sincerely contemplate this, a taste or an experience is created which we call the taste of the Qur’an. Some verses are ones that end with the beautiful names of Allah (SWT) such as غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِيۡمٌ‏.

There are some verses that end with the name of a nation, for example, لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُون and if one makes a connection of these words by using their hearing, sight and heart, when a servant has knowledge of something, what does he do after acquiring this knowledge? He comes to a conclusion whether it is right or wrong which is the role of knowledge.

Having seen the colour of a leaf by the element of sight, one will know its colour. In the same way, once medical knowledge is acquired by a doctor and understood, from this they will reach further conclusions after using it.

In verses prior to ones that end with لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُون, Allah (SWT) is saying “who would understand what I have explained in this verse?”. It is those people who use their hearing and sight and then use their heart to draw conclusions. Once they draw conclusions from what Allah (SWT) has said coupled with their past experience and knowledge, it becomes incumbent upon them to accept and believe it as true and that it is beneficial for one’s family, society and the entire world.

From this we can see that there are those who pause and contemplate over the creation and who created all of these things. These people are not selfish and think not only of themselves but for others in their societies and for the rest of the world. They are righteous and pious.

There are others who are the opposite who think selfishly only for themselves, who disregard what has been written in the Qur’an and argue against it. Their personal biases and freedoms are at play. Others will also refuse to accept and believe what is in the Qur’an due to their forefathers.

We can see from this that broadly speaking, there are two types of people. One type of people are righteous, selfless and regard others in their communities, societies and the world. The other type of people are those who follow on from their forefathers and continue to do things how they were done before and refuse to think beyond this. They are those who can be selfish, think of themselves and entertain their personal biases and freedoms and not think of the greater good nor contemplate over creation.

These two categories of people existed from the time of Noah (PBUH) up until the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and until today. Each of the two groups of people differ in varying degrees which will be explained below.

Literal meanings of words or semantic meanings

In the Qur’an with regards to the verses of knowledge, verses containing words such as  يَعْلَمُون or لَا يَعْلَمُون, word for word, are usually translated as “they know” or “they don’t know”. If these verses are pondered over as an individual of the third category, the meaning of the verse لَا يَعْلَمُون here means that they did not even contemplate. All praises be to Allah (SWT), look at the link here between hearing, sight and the heart in terms of pondering and contemplating over what Allah (SWT) has said. Those people who did not contemplate did not bother nor care.

The meaning of لَا يَعْلَمُون is that so much was told to these people with a means to understand but they did not use their senses or their heart and therefore they did not reach any conclusions.

Meaning of لَا يَعْلَمُون and لَا تَعْلَمُون

In the Qur’an, there are verses containing لَا يَعْلَمُون and لَا تَعْلَمُون, where Allah (SWT) says what He has given to mankind in terms of understanding, perception, intellect and the mind. There are some who do not utilise it and had they done so, it would not be possible for them to disagree with what is said in the Qur’an and what is described as the laws of nature which are for the good of mankind. Since they did not reflect upon this, they use ignorance as an excuse.

Another perspective is that these people contemplated on and know of what is written in the Qur’an, by using their hearing and sight, but they still disbelieve. Allah (SWT) says that they are selfish because they are looking at limited and temporary gains and are blinded by the love of the world. They do not use their hearing, sight and heart to draw the right conclusions, unable to pay attention to the knowledge of the revelation of Allah (SWT) when it suits their own personal interests. Those who are self-centred in this way become blinded by the world.

Remember that this world is temporary and there is another world, the Hereafter which we will all inevitably arrive at. In order to prepare for the Hereafter, mankind must not only think about himself, but also come to the service of his family, his society and the rest of the world. This beneficial endeavour will have a huge impact on ourselves, which we will take to the Hereafter with us. This helps us to understand that this world is a journey where we live and conduct our affairs in the hope that it will help us in the Hereafter. Otherwise, if we falsely believe that this world is all that there is, then we have not understood the true relationship we need to have with this world and hence why so many are attached for the wrong reasons.

The third category of people look at the long-term benefits and by this we mean:

وَهُوَ الَّذِىۡۤ اَنۡشَاَكُمۡ مِّنۡ نَّفۡسٍ وَّاحِدَةٍ فَمُسۡتَقَرٌّ وَّمُسۡتَوۡدَعٌ​ ؕ قَدۡ فَصَّلۡنَا الۡاٰيٰتِ لِقَوۡمٍ يَّفۡقَهُوۡنَ‏
It is He Who first produced you from a single self, then from a resting-place and a repository, We have made the Signs clear for people who understand. (6:98)

Mankind was in the spirit world prior to coming into this world, from here will progress to the world of the grave and from there to the eternal world of the Hereafter. This journey is ongoing and we must allocate some funds for the entire journey. If we deplete our funds in this world, what will we use on the subsequent journeys to come? This is something to ponder over.

Allah (SWT) says that self-centred people have become blind to their personal, temporal, and limited conclusions, which is why they do not understand what is being said. Allah (SWT) calls them arrogant because they do not draw conclusions by using their hearing, sight or conscience. They do not ponder over it nor pay attention to it. Even if a conclusion is drawn, they deny it and refuse to accept it. These people have become blind in their personal and temporal interests and the Qur’an uses harsh words at various places describing them. The people of the West frown upon what the Qur’an says regarding this.

How many verses are there in the Qur’an containing يَعْلَمُون and تَعْلَمُون? If you look at all of the verses of knowledge in the Qur’an, then it solely means that when you reach this conclusion, you are obliged to accept and believe it, but if you refuse, it is due to your arrogance, personal obstinacy and personal interest.

Our intellect plays a big role in understanding the Quran which is greatly encouraged.

The differing levels of righteous groups of people mentioned in the Qur’an

Some verses of the Qur’an end with the words قَوْمًا صَالِحِين, which means for a group of people to improve or enhance the world using their hearing, sight and heart to ponder and conclude that they are here for righteous works. This is a foundational understanding of why we are here.

Following on from this fundamental understanding, there are those groups of people who focus on the importance of the intellect and examine deep within the Qur’an and highlight something being said specifically. These people of understanding are called قَوْم يَفْقَهُون.

Another word that appears in the Qur’an is قَوْم يَذَّكَّرُون which means that those who use their sight, hearing and heart to draw the right conclusions that Allah (SWT) has commanded and then to teach and explain to others who do not have this understanding. They do this in order to give others the understanding of what to avoid in regards to potential harms and temporary benefits but rather to achieve long term benefits. These people are known as قَوْم يَذَّكَّرُون. These people propagate the message of the Qur’an to others.

قَوْم يَتَفَكَّرُون are reserved for learned people who ponder and reflect on the sayings within the Qur’an. For example, if we only look at our prayers, fasting, and pilgrimage (Hajj) in accordance from a medical or a psychological perspective, there are so many benefits of performing these acts. The primary reason why these are performed is because it is the command of Allah (SWT) which has wisdom. So قَوْم يَتَفَكَّرُون think and contemplate as do قَوْم يَعلَمُون both groups of people who are very similar, ponder, contemplate and then make decisions.

قَوْم يَسْمَعُون are those people who listen, not only with their ears but after listening and using their heart and conscience, they draw conclusions on how beneficial or harmful something is to them.

قَوْم يَعْقِلُون are people of the wise. Allah (SWT) has mentioned many things in previous verses and going forward He mentions قَوْم يَعْقِلُون. When this group of people use their intellect, they understand the difference between personal interest and biases and take into account the interest of the whole world. 

When Allah (SWT) says, قَوْم يَعْدِلُون, He mentions in the preceding verses that “Look at the universe. Who made the sky, who made the earth, who allowed the cities to flourish?” By giving countless such examples, Allah (SWT) says قَوْم يَعْدِلُون, that shouldn’t you be thankful to God who has given you all this? Allah (SWT) says that those who will be thankful for my blessings are wise people, قَوْم يَعْدِلُون.

This group of people قَوْم يَذَّكَّرُون are those who reached the right conclusion and to obtain benefit. They encouraged others to gain this benefit by demanding justice and fairness for humanity, they will become قَوْمٌ يَعْدِلُون who are those people who will definitely believe what Allah (SWT) has commanded.

Take away for a moment the meaning of piety that we usually have in our mind, which usually relates to a person worshipping all night, to avoid sins and to avoid mistakes. There is another natural and fundamental meaning, which is one who wants to avoid loss, who wants to gain benefit by sacrificing personal interests for the interests and betterment of society. He sacrifices himself for the benefit of humanity and wants to save himself, his family, his society and all humanity from harm’s way. They are pious group of people, قَوْم يَتَّقُونَ.

The final outcome of all these verses results in the final group of people, قَوْم يَشْكُرُون. Once these people reach their conclusion after pondering on the commands of Allah (SWT), His creation and understanding it, it is impossible not to be appreciative and thankful. By being thankful, we do not mean gratitude expressed verbally, rather that he ponders over things and comes to the conclusion of whether it is beneficial for my family, community and society or is it a temporary benefit.. If he thinks of its benefits being far-reaching, suppresses his greed, stubbornness, personal feelings and biases, and thinks of the good of humanity, then this is thanking Him (SWT).

If at the last point a person thinks that the one who created all these things is Allah (SWT) and if we follow the orders of Allah (SWT) in the way that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) has described in his interpretation and explanation of the Qur’an, then this will be an endless benefit on the Day of Resurrection and beyond. And that is the hereafter and to believe is faith and not only following His commandments blindly. 

On the contrary, if you look at the groups of people we have just discussed and the verses related to them, the narrative is that Allah (SWT)’s commands are explained  first and must be understood before it is demanded that they are now believed. Those who still have the arrogance of not believing and still hold onto their temporary, personal interests and greed, what other reason can be for one not to believe? Allah (SWT) commands us all to sacrifice personal interest for the sake of humanity and we will be rewarded for it. If he accepts the message within the Qur’an, he becomes a believer.

Qur’anic verses are all positive

The verses we have mentioned so far about each group of people are expressed in a positive light. The verses are all positive but it is also necessary to explain certain points from a negative side. Viewing these verses from a negative lens invites concern and removes the veil of negligence which has to be done initially.

For example, the first letter لا in the first Kalima Tayyab (Purity) appears here to remove the veil of negligence, to remove any belief of other deities, i.e. لآ اِلَهَ (there is no God). If this veil is removed first, then الا الله (but Allah) will come and settle in one’s heart. If that veil of neglect has not already been removed, then how will الا الله settle?

This is analogous to constructing a new building on a plot of land which already contains an old building. The old building would need to be demolished before a new one can be constructed in its place. In the same way, the old erroneous beliefs must be removed in order for the truth to settle.

We will now discuss the same groups of people covered earlier but from a negative angle.

The differing levels of ignorant groups of people mentioned in the Qur’an

The ignorant groups of people are the opposite to the righteous groups of people who were described earlier. The ignorant are broadly placed into one of two groups. The first group of people are قَوْمٌ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ those who have intellect, but they did not draw the final conclusion that the believer should have. They just ate, drank and slept, which in essence shows there is no difference between them and animals.

For such people, Allah (SWT) mentions them in verses in the Qur’an with these word-endings (see translations for English meaning):

قَوْمًا عَمِينَ – A nation that is blinded, who follow short-term personal gain. They can only see within the realms of the senses but not beyond it.
الْقَوْمًا تَجْهَلُونَ – An ignorant people astound others due to their continued ignorance.
قَوْمِ الْمُفْسِدِينَ – A people who resort to dishonesty and mischiefmaking in order to gain temporary short-term worldly benefit.
وَلَا تَكُنْ مِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ – A people that are negligent.
قَوْمًا لُدًّا – A contentious people who always argue against the truth.
قَوْمًا عَالِينَ – They were highly arrogant and tyrannous people, or they showed haughtiness and self conceit.
قَوْمًا بُورًا – An ungrateful and a mean people who ignore admonitions given by the Prophets.
قَوْمٌ خَصِمُونَ – A controversial or quarrelsome people who always argue against the truth.
قَوْمٌ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ – A people without understanding who come to the wrong conclusions.
قَوْمٌ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ – A people without understanding who come to the wrong conclusions.
قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ – Those who transgress against the commands of Allah (SWT).
أَهْوَاءَ قَوْمٍ – The desires or caprices of a people that came before you.
قَوْمًا ضَالِّينَ – Those people who have gone astray.
قَوْمًا مُجْرِمِينَ – Those people who are evil-doers.
قَوْمًا مُسْرِفِينَ – A people who exceed limits set by Allah (SWT).
قَوْمًا طَاغِينَ – Those who transgress against the commands of Allah (SWT).
الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ – Those people who are wrongdoers

These people are the opposite of those described earlier. They were not regarded as bad people nor criticised, rather, they were referred to as self-sabotagers in the context of not using their senses, intellect and conscience. They didn’t contemplate to examine creation and understand how and why we are here in order to reach the correct conclusion of why Allah (SWT) created us and for what purpose. To reach this conclusion, one has to remove their biases, personal interests and arrogance, to not only think of themselves but for others and for humanity. Hence, these people fell into oppression so the term الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِين means an oppressed people.

There is no negativity in this term but it is a description of the state in which they have fallen. In the same way, Allah (SWT) said, قَوْمٌ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ. It is being said by Allah (SWT) that He gave these people these blessings and they did not draw the right conclusions. There was nothing conveyed to them that did not make sense but because of their self-centredness and the lack of family, societal and humanity’s interests, they have become arrogant. Their arguments are based on arrogance and personal interest, so when they gave false arguments, the Qur’an said that they are قَوْمٌ خَصِمُونَ, which means they give misleading or false arguments.

Allah (SWT) says about them, السُّفَهَاء, “O people of fools, this is a crazy people”.

People of the West will object to this that Allah (SWT) has called them ‘a crazy people’. When Allah (SWT) uses the word السُّفَهَاءُ, this is actually an expression of their condition, it does not mean that they are literally crazy, but causing harm to themselves due to their short sightedness. This does not mean that no one cannot legitimately ask questions or give an argument. This expression refers to those who dismiss what Allah (SWT) has commanded, by providing misleading arguments in order to continue appeasing the status quo as well as their own personal interests in a selfish manner.

The second group of people are those who openly want to make a living by stealing and condone earning through a life of crime, قَوْمًا مُجْرِمِين. Allah (SWT) says of them that I have given you hearing and sight, so you should have concluded to earn lawful sustenance by working hard righteously. Allah (SWT) says of them that these people are criminals and corrupt. They have brought this upon themselves as they did not correctly make use of their hearing, sight and conscience given to them. Allah (SWT) says of how far they have fallen and calls them a corrupt people, الْقَوْمِ الْمُفْسِدِينَ that these are قَوْمًا مُجْرِمِين.

In all of the aforementioned verses in the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) has placed great emphasis on the use of the intellect, that one should use their hearing, sight and heart to comprehend and understand these verses and to obey them.

Those who did not use their hearing, sight, intellect and hearts, Allah (SWT) said of them in Surah Al-A’raf:

وَلَـقَدۡ ذَرَاۡنَا لِجَـهَنَّمَ كَثِيۡرًا مِّنَ الۡجِنِّ وَالۡاِنۡسِ​ ​ۖ  لَهُمۡ قُلُوۡبٌ لَّا يَفۡقَهُوۡنَ بِهَا  وَلَهُمۡ اَعۡيُنٌ لَّا يُبۡصِرُوۡنَ بِهَا  وَلَهُمۡ اٰذَانٌ لَّا يَسۡمَعُوۡنَ بِهَا ؕ اُولٰۤٮِٕكَ كَالۡاَنۡعَامِ بَلۡ هُمۡ اَضَلُّ​ ؕ اُولٰۤٮِٕكَ هُمُ الۡغٰفِلُوۡنَ‏‏
We created many of the jinn and mankind for Hell. They have hearts they do not understand with. They have eyes they do not see with. They have ears they do not hear with. Such people are like cattle. No, they are even further astray! They are the unaware. (7:179)

These people have misused and wasted the use of their hearing, sight and hearts to draw conclusions. They either do not use them at all or do not believe or accept what Allah (SWT) has commanded. They see and hear the world but do not derive any conclusion from it through their hearts. They have brought themselves down to the level of animals and Allah (SWT) uses the words بَلْ هُمْ أَضَل (“Such people are like cattle”) in saying that you are worse than animals.

Hearing, sight, will, intellect, wisdom, thinking, understanding and pondering are amongst the attributes that are the essence of a human being. In a hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:

انما بعثت لاتمم مكارم الاخلاق “I have come to this world to teach humanity to man”. (need hadith reference) 

People of the third level contemplate and ponder over this.

Reading the Qur’an with “contemplation and thought”. An example from Surah Yusuf.

A verse within Surah Yusuf:

قُلۡ هٰذِهٖ سَبِيۡلِىۡۤ اَدۡعُوۡۤا اِلَى اللّٰهِ ​ؔ عَلٰى بَصِيۡرَةٍ اَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِىۡ​ؕ وَسُبۡحٰنَ اللّٰهِ وَمَاۤ اَنَا مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِكِيۡنَ‏
Say: ‘This is my way. I call to Allah with inner sight, I and all who follow me. Glory be to Allah! I am not one of the idolaters!’. (12:108)

Regarding this verse, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said قُلۡ هٰذِهٖ سَبِيۡلِىۡۤ اَدۡعُوۡۤا اِلَى اللّٰهِ, that what is my way is this way. عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ, I call Him with inner sight. He is with reason and deliberation. أَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي, And the nation and the youth whom I have prepared and purified from desires. وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي those who follow my way, their way is my way that they have this insight, they ponder and contemplate this message and then make decisions using their heart and accept it. It is as if they are following my example (Sunnah) which is the intention of Allah and is His pleasure. He wants you to consider this and draw this conclusion which is to look at the celestial universe, look at this world and within yourselves. Everywhere you will see the proofs of the Oneness of Allah, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH)’s mission and of the accountability in the Hereafter. So thinking in the heavenly, earthly realms and inwardly will lead you to this conclusion.

Here we are talking about the people of the third level that when they hear something, they understand it, ponder and contemplate over it and believe it.  وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ This also gives an indication that a Muslim can never commit shirk (associating partners with Allah (SWT)) .

In this verse, one difference between the believers and the unbelievers is that when it is explained to the unbeliever, he argues wrongly and says, “I am doing this because everyone else has been doing it”. He has been following this view since the beginning. In this argument, the word اٰبَآءَ is used.
Below are several examples of verses where this word is used:

وَاِذَا قِيۡلَ لَهُمۡ تَعَالَوۡا اِلٰى مَاۤ اَنۡزَلَ اللّٰهُ وَاِلَى الرَّسُوۡلِ قَالُوۡا حَسۡبُنَا مَا وَجَدۡنَا عَلَيۡهِ اٰبَآءَنَا​ ؕ اَوَلَوۡ كَانَ اٰبَآؤُهُمۡ لَا يَعۡلَمُوۡنَ شَيۡــًٔـا وَّلَا يَهۡتَدُوۡنَ
When they are told, ‘Come to what Allah has sent down and to the Messenger,’ they say, ‘What we found our fathers doing is enough for us.’  What! Even if their fathers did not know anything and were not guided! (5:104) 
وَاِذَا فَعَلُوۡا فَاحِشَةً قَالُوۡا وَجَدۡنَا عَلَيۡهَاۤ اٰبَآءَنَا وَاللّٰهُ اَمَرَنَا بِهَا​ ؕ قُلۡ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ لَا يَاۡمُرُ بِالۡفَحۡشَآءِ​ ؕ اَتَقُوۡلُوۡنَ عَلَى اللّٰهِ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ‏
Whenever they commit an indecent act, they say ‘We found our fathers doing it and Allah commanded us to do it too.’ Say: ‘Allah does not command indecency. Do you say things about Allah you do not know?’ (7:28)
قَالُوۡا وَجَدۡنَاۤ اٰبَآءَنَا لَهَا عٰبِدِيۡنَ‏
They said, ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ (21:53)
قَالُوۡا بَلۡ وَجَدۡنَاۤ اٰبَآءَنَا كَذٰلِكَ يَفۡعَلُوۡنَ‏‏
They said, ‘No, but this is what we found our fathers doing.’ (26:74)
وَاِذَا قِيۡلَ لَهُمُ اتَّبِعُوۡا مَآ اَنۡزَلَ اللّٰهُ قَالُوۡا بَلۡ نَـتَّـبِـعُ مَا وَجَدۡنَا عَلَيۡهِ اٰبَآءَنَا ؕ اَوَلَوۡ كَانَ الشَّيۡطٰنُ يَدۡعُوۡهُمۡ اِلٰى عَذَابِ السَّعِيۡرِ‏‏‏
When they are told: ‘Follow what Allah has sent down,’ they say, ‘No, we will follow what we found our fathers doing.’ What! Even if Shaytan is calling them to the punishment of the Blazing Fire? (31:21)
بَلۡ قَالُـوۡۤا اِنَّا وَجَدۡنَاۤ اٰبَآءَنَا عَلٰٓى اُمَّةٍ وَّاِنَّا عَلٰٓى اٰثٰرِهِمۡ مُّهۡتَدُوۡنَ‏‏‏
No, in fact they say, ‘We found our fathers following a religion and we are simply guided in their footsteps.’ (43:22)
وَكَذٰلِكَ مَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنَا مِنۡ قَبۡلِكَ فِىۡ قَرۡيَةٍ مِّنۡ نَّذِيۡرٍ اِلَّا قَالَ مُتۡرَفُوۡهَاۤ اِنَّا وَجَدۡنَاۤ اٰبَآءَنَا عَلٰٓى اُمَّةٍ وَّاِنَّا عَلٰٓى اٰثٰرِهِمۡ مُّقۡتَدُوۡنَ‏‏‏‏
Similarly We never sent any warner before you to any city without the affluent among them saying, ‘We found our fathers following a religion and we are simply following in their footsteps.’ (43:23)

The word اٰبَآءَ doesn’t only mean father or forefather but also that from the beginning up until now, everybody is doing the same thing. اٰبَآءَ means predecessors, what has continued on from the first generation of people up until now. Using their own conscience and personal self-interest, they do not want to believe what is being told to them because they followed what their fathers and forefathers did.

However, a believer follows and believes in the commands of Allah (SWT) and how they come to this is covered by the word Baseer, بصیر. The word بصیر comes from the word Basr,بصر which were mentioned in the verses discussed previously.

بصیر means the one who uses his insight to draw correct conclusions. He gives thanks, accepts what has been commanded and does not believe simply because he is “told” to do so. Rather, he has become convinced by using his hearing, sight and heart to draw conclusions that he already believes. Allah (SWT) says that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), said that I and my companions are so convinced that we are بصیر, so much so that we have understood it correctly that we do not accept it just because we hear the commandment, but we have to accept it because it makes sense and is the truth.

Allah (SWT) reiterates this point in Surah Furqan regarding those that are بصیر:

وَالَّذِيۡنَ اِذَا ذُكِّرُوۡا بِاٰيٰتِ رَبِّهِمۡ لَمۡ يَخِرُّوۡا عَلَيۡهَا صُمًّا وَّعُمۡيَانًا‏‏‏‏‏
Those who, when they are reminded of the Signs of their Lord, do not turn their backs, deaf and blind to them; (25:73)

Where did this belief come from? It’s because of knowledge. Why did we believe after deep contemplation and thought? We have seen and heard what is being commanded by Allah (SWT).  Our conscience and intellect is satisfied with what was being said and we believed. We did not believe blindly, but what was being said made sense and we were compelled to believe.

It is worth contemplating why بصیر is mentioned at the end of Surah Yusuf (12:108):

قُلۡ هٰذِهٖ سَبِيۡلِىۡۤ اَدۡعُوۡۤا اِلَى اللّٰهِ ​ؔ عَلٰى بَصِيۡرَةٍ اَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِىۡ​ؕ وَسُبۡحٰنَ اللّٰهِ وَمَاۤ اَنَا مِنَ الۡمُشۡرِكِيۡنَ‏
Say: ‘This is my way. I call to Allah with inner sight, I and all who follow me. Glory be to Allah! I am not one of the idolaters!’. (12:108)

This has a unique status in the Qur’an where the word بصیر is mentioned in this manner and eloquence.

Glory be to Allah (SWT), at the end of Surah Yusuf, after Yusuf (AS) is mentioned, the word بصیر,  appears which has a lesson for us in that Allah (SWT) states that someone is not beautiful or handsome due to their appearance, but because they use their hearing, sight, intellect and conscience and draw the right lessons and conclusions, they are beautiful to Me.

When reading Surah Yusuf, Yusuf (AS) had external beauty, but the real beauty of Yusuf (AS), the real beauty of the Prophets (AS), the real beauty of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the beauty of the saints and the beauty of the people of knowledge is to use your hearing, sight and vision and to see and hear the commands of Allah and the commands of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and draw conclusions from them and believe in them which is to have faith. This is the beauty of faith.

Because of this beauty, Allah (SWT) has given أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ splendour to man. His appearance is of splendour compared to every other creature but what Allah (SWT) has given mankind in terms of hearing, seeing and drawing conclusions using their heart is their greatest beauty. For this reason, Allah (SWT) has used the word بصیرا in Surah Yusuf (12:108).

Distinct praise of people of the third level who contemplate over the Qur’an

As discussed previously, Allah (SWT) says in Surah Furqan:

وَالَّذِيۡنَ اِذَا ذُكِّرُوۡا بِاٰيٰتِ رَبِّهِمۡ لَمۡ يَخِرُّوۡا عَلَيۡهَا صُمًّا وَّعُمۡيَانًا‏‏‏‏‏
Those who, when they are reminded of the Signs of their Lord, do not turn their backs, deaf and blind to them; (25:73)

Allah (SWT) said in this verse that those who believed in Allah (SWT), believed in the Messenger (PBUH) and believed in the Hereafter, and the question is why did they believe?? They believed this because the Prophet (PBUH) told them through the Qur’an, which was revealed to him and he taught what was revealed to Him to his companions who were able to read, recite and understand the Qur’an.

The non-Muslims and polytheists at that time used to insinuate that the Muslims were crazy. Allah (SWT) said about them in Surah al-Mutaffifin:

وَاِذَا رَاَوۡهُمۡ قَالُوۡۤا اِنَّ هٰٓؤُلَاۤءِ لَـضَآلُّوۡنَۙ‏
When they saw them, they would say, ‘Those people are misguided.’ (83:32)

Allah (SWT) responds in Surah Yusuf that the believers are not “crazy”. They are sensible, thoughtful and have contemplated, عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي. These are my followers, how could they not ponder or contemplate? Look at your own selves when arguments and proofs are required of you, you present imitations and false arguments.

Allah (SWT) challenges them in Surah As-Saffat:

فَاۡتُوۡا بِكِتٰبِكُمۡ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ صٰدِقِيۡنَ‏
Bring your Book, then, if you are telling the truth! (37:157)

Allah (SWT) challenges the non-Muslims and polytheists to bring their evidence and says of them that they stubbornly end arguments by saying قَالُوۡا وَجَدۡنَا عَلَيۡهَاۤ اٰبَآءَنَا, that we found our fathers doing it.

From this, it can be deduced who is “crazy”. The believers recite the Qur’an, ponder and contemplate over its verses, and work to understand and believe in what they have read after deliberation. So it is in the blessed verse (25:73) that mentions that the non-Muslims and polytheists did not accept it.

Allah (SWT) said of the believers that these are the people who use their hearing completely when they listen to the verses of the Qur’an, they use their sight fully and their heart fully to draw conclusions, لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا. These people are wise and intelligent with great vision, whose hearts and minds understood and pondered so deeply that it made sense so Allah (SWT) praised them.

How did Allah (SWT) praise the people of the third level who read the verses of the Qur’an in this way? He does so as mentioned in Surah Furqan:

وَالَّذِيۡنَ اِذَا ذُكِّرُوۡا بِاٰيٰتِ رَبِّهِمۡ لَمۡ يَخِرُّوۡا عَلَيۡهَا صُمًّا وَّعُمۡيَانًا‏‏‏‏‏
Those who, when they are reminded of the Signs of their Lord, do not turn their backs, deaf and blind to them; (25:73)

When these people used their hearing, sight and hearts to reach a conclusion and accepted it, a supplication came on their tongues as mentioned in the next verse in Surah Furqan:

وَالَّذِيۡنَ يَقُوۡلُوۡنَ رَبَّنَا هَبۡ لَـنَا مِنۡ اَزۡوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيّٰتِنَا قُرَّةَ اَعۡيُنٍ وَّاجۡعَلۡنَا لِلۡمُتَّقِيۡنَ اِمَامًا‏‏
Those who say, ‘Our Lord, give us joy in our wives and children and make us a good example for those who are godfearing’; (25:74)

Here the word زوج is used which means wife in Arabic and the same word is also used to mean husband. In other words when a female servant supplicates, she does so for her husband and when a male servant supplicates, he does so for his wife. They say, O Allah (SWT), you have revealed to us the secret of using our intellect, hearing, seeing and hearts to draw conclusions that the Qur’an makes sense. Give this knowledge to my husband or wife that you have given me and give them this insight too and make them people of insight.

Imagine the satisfaction one gets when sitting down together with others to discuss this matter. قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ means to have mental satisfaction and peace, that one will feel satisfaction. If we sit in a gathering and talk about what’s on our mind, it fulfils us. Therefore, the people of the third level pray that, “Oh Allah (SWT), this blessing that you have given us, first and foremost, grant it to our spouse”. Now imagine the joy of his peace and satisfaction that he is supplicating for his spouse as well. He also prays for his children to grant them this blessing that when they talk about the Qur’an, that it makes sense, they will obtain fulfilment and satisfaction from it.

These people continue their supplication further and say, وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا. The meaning of مُتَّقِينَ here are those who are cautious, who want to use their hearing and sight to reach the right conclusion. They supplicate to Allah (SWT) that You have given us the Qur’an, make it for us and our descendants that we convey the message of the Qur’an to them and that they also understand it like we have, so they become righteous people. مُتَّقِينَ also means those who have realised that the Quran is a book to read, listen and understand. Once understood, they want to avoid harm and protect society and all of humanity from harm.

They end their supplication with, “make us their leader”, that is, make us their support, and grant us the opportunity to go to them. Allah (SWT) likes this prayer of theirs so much that it is mentioned in the next verse in Surah al-Furqan:

اُولٰٓٮِٕكَ يُجۡزَوۡنَ الۡغُرۡفَةَ بِمَا صَبَرُوۡا وَيُلَقَّوۡنَ فِيۡهَا تَحِيَّةً وَّسَلٰمًا خٰلِدِيۡنَ فِيۡهَا​ ؕ حَسُنَتۡ مُسۡتَقَرًّا وَّمُقَامًا‏
such people will be repaid for their steadfastness with the Highest Paradise, where they will meet with welcome and with ‘Peace’ (25:75) They will remain in it timelessly, for ever. What an excellent lodging and abode! (25:76)

At the end of Surah al-Furqan:

قُلۡ مَا يَعۡبَـؤُا بِكُمۡ رَبِّىۡ لَوۡلَا دُعَآؤُكُمۡ​ۚ فَقَدۡ كَذَّبۡتُمۡ فَسَوۡفَ يَكُوۡنُ لِزَامًا‏‏
Say: ‘What has My Lord to do with you if you do not call on Him? But you have denied the truth, so punishment is bound to come.’ (25:77)

Allah (SWT) says that I have given mankind hearing, sight and intellect. If some misuse it and live in their arrogance then they did not pay their due. Allah (SWT) wanted them to appreciate these gifts and understand the Qur’an by using it in the correct manner that would have been pleasing to Allah (SWT) but they did not and were left blind and deaf, so why should He value them?

This verse does not mean that Allah (SWT) has disregarded them. Rather, when reading the previous verse (25:73) together with this verse (25:74), it means that Allah (SWT) had given mankind these blessings and expected them to be of a certain standard when returning to Him but these people failed to achieve this. Neither did they think of themselves or for others. Allah (SWT) made mankind a viceroy on earth, to improve it and settle on it. Those people who misused it, spoiled and ruined the land now expect Allah (SWT) to appreciate and reward them? How are they worthy of His appreciation?

Appreciation mentioned here isn’t being said in a negative way. The verses emphasise on the importance of the knowledge of intellect in the Holy Quran and they tell us about wisdom.

Why did we develop a habit of distancing from thoughtful thinking and rational reasoning?

During the time of the Abbasid caliphate, a sect arose called the Mu’tazilites (the Separatists) whose followers are still found today and are becoming rather popular. The hallmark of this sect was that they used to reason everything with the intellect and made it their main concern.

The Qur’anic verses in which supernatural things are mentioned such as miracles, the Mu’tazilites would interpret those verses differently. For example, regarding the Prophet (PBUH)’s Night Ascent (the Isra’ and Mi’raj), they cannot comprehend this supernatural event in their minds so they interpret this as a physical migration from Makkah to Madinah.

Regarding Hadith narrations of a similar nature which mentions miracles and supernatural events, the Mu’tazilah would deny them completely.

The Mu’tazilah took the intellect to such an extent that they say that if we have performed righteous deeds but Allah (SWT) punishes us, we would ask Him why has He punished us as this would go against common sense.

Due to this, using the intellect became a negative connotation. Some people from amongst the main body of Sunni Muslims, the Ahlul Sunnah wal Jamaah maintained their relationship with the people of knowledge and placed emphasis on listening to them. This approach took precedence over using their own intellect which meant that it would steer them from trying to rationalise things, which created a front against rationalism. Although the use of the intellect and legitimate reason has been commanded in many places in the Qur’an and in the argument of the Hereafter, Allah (SWT) commands many times that if you think, ponder and use reason then you cannot deny the Hereafter.

In this regard, Imam Razi mentioned the verse of Surah al-Jathiyyah:

تِلۡكَ اٰيٰتُ اللّٰهِ نَـتۡلُوۡهَا عَلَيۡكَ بِالۡحَقِّ​ ​ۚ فَبِاَىِّ حَدِيۡثٍۢ بَعۡدَ اللّٰهِ وَاٰيٰتِهٖ يُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ‏‏‏
Those are Allah’s Signs which We recite to you with truth. In what discourse, then, after Allah and His Signs, will they believe? (45:6)

Two names of faith have been described as “reason based/rational faith” and “imitational faith”. The result was that for the layman only imitational faith is correct and for the scholars it is necessary to have faith via reasoning, i.e. pondering, thinking and deliberating in arguments. However, according to the arguments of natural science, most people will also join in thinking, deliberating and reaching a conclusion but the knowledge of the nature of God and His attributes will be obtained only through revelation and through the knowledge of the Prophets (AS). A conclusion will be found but the arguments will not be against common sense. The five senses and common sense will support him except for those things that are related to the world of the Unseen.

The intellect and Imam Ghazali, Imam Razi and other intellectual scholars of Islam

The significance of what Imam al-Ghazali and Imam Razi have deduced from rational arguments in interpreting and explaining the teachings of the Qur’an and hadith is well known across the world. The Mu’tazilites views were swept aside at that time that even Western intellectuals could not deny it.

In this era when discussions arose on using the intellect or not, some claimed that we should use reason whereas others were against the use of reason and believed that whatever has been written should be believed as is. At that time there were also some people who, when reading the rational arguments of the Mu’tazilites, were influenced by them.

When we cross-examine books written by scholars such as Imam Dhahabi, Imam ibn Hajar al-Asqalani and Hafiz Midhii, they all state that certain individuals were inclined towards the Mu’tazilites because they too placed emphasis on pondering and contemplating over things. If there was any agreement between these certain individuals and the Mu’tazilites in any matter, these scholars would say that these individuals were influenced by them. Because of this people would fear that if they said something that was in accordance with the Mu’tazilites, they too would be accused of being one. As a consequence, people refrained from using their intellect and pondering over things.

Imam Ghazali and Imam Fakhruddin al-Razi both studied philosophy and logic to such an exceptional standard that they presented their arguments to the Mu’tazilites’ in their own language.  They were elite scholars on the teachings of Islam and were part of the main body of Sunni Muslims, the Ahlul Sunnah wal Jamaah. Due to these two scholars, many people came back into mainstream Sunni Islam and their teachings are still used today. Akbar al Abadi, a poet, wrote a couplet: 

ناز کیا اُس پہ جو بدلا ہے زمانے نے تمہیں
Do you appreciate how time has changed you?
مرد ہیں وہ جو زمانے کو بدل دیتے
Men are those who change the times.

Imam Ghazali and Imam Razi were those men.

Furthermore, the verse in the Qur’an:

وَلَا تَقۡفُ مَا لَـيۡسَ لَـكَ بِهٖ عِلۡمٌ​ ؕ اِنَّ السَّمۡعَ وَالۡبَصَرَ وَالۡفُؤَادَ كُلُّ اُولٰۤٮِٕكَ كَانَ عَنۡهُ مَسۡـُٔوۡلًا‏‏‏‏
Do not pursue what you have no knowledge of. Hearing, sight and hearts will all be questioned. (17:36)

has clarified a great truth that the sign of a believer is he who does not believe anything without thinking, without deliberation and without pondering or contemplating over it. That true knowledge comes into their heart by using their sight and hearing.

Nothing that Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW) say is against reason. The intellectuals of the world will always accept this and they may believe what is being said or not, but will never say that it does not make sense.

This is the reason why the non-Muslim members of the Community were challenged to bring a surah similar to the Holy Quran as mentioned in Surah al-Baqara:

وَاِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ فِىۡ رَيۡبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلۡنَا عَلٰى عَبۡدِنَا فَاۡتُوۡا بِسُوۡرَةٍ مِّنۡ مِّثۡلِهٖ وَادۡعُوۡا شُهَدَآءَكُمۡ مِّنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰهِ اِنۡ كُنۡتُمۡ صٰدِقِيۡنَ‏ ‏‏‏‏
If you have doubts about what We have sent down to Our slave, produce another sura equal to it, and call your witnesses, besides Allah, if you are telling the truth. (2:23)

There are two meanings within this verse. One is that even if your false gods, spirits and priests help you in this endeavour, you still cannot bring an example equal to that of the Qur’an. The second meaning is that even if you dare to produce an Arabic text, your own intellectuals will never support or confirm your fabricated word is like the Qur’an. In other words, your own intellectuals will not support you in saying that your speech is like the Qur’an, as mentioned by Imam Qurtubi and Imam Razi in their commentaries of this verse.

This shows the self-assurance of the Qur’an. Nobody with common sense can deny that the facts presented in the Qur’anic verses make sense. We have our own experience of this. We have seen this with our very own eyes, where the truth of the Qur’an is discussed with non-Muslims they never dare deny it. So should we now give up using our intellect or common sense because of the Mu’tazilites?


In the Holy Qur’an a lot of importance has been placed on the use of one’s intellect, hearing, sight and the heart to draw conclusions. Throughout history, we have seen that due to the popularity of certain sects that used rational thinking and reasoning at the forefront of their beliefs, this caused an affront to using one’s intellect, should they be accused of belonging to one of these sects.

Nevertheless, Allah (SWT) commands us to use our intellect and scholars of Sunni Islam have demonstrated that it is imperative to use one’s intellect. Those communities who were successful in the time of Noah (PBUH) up until today, in the community of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), were the ones who pondered and contemplated over the verses of the Qur’an and the creation of Allah (SWT). They were those people who, after much thought and deliberation, selflessly propagated the message to others for the betterment of their communities, societies and the world as a whole. Conversely, there were those who refused to believe the commands of Allah (SWT) and what was revealed in the Qur’an out of ignorance, personal freedom, personal biases or simply because their forefathers did not follow them.

This article discussed these two categories of people and also went into detail of what the Qur’anic verses tell us about using one’s intellect and how one is truly thankful to Allah (SWT) in this way. 

It can be seen that using one’s intellect is encouraged and essential in understanding the Qur’an contrary to those who claim that one should not do so. This is the way to truly be thankful to Allah (SWT) and to be successful in this world and in the hereafter.

  1. Bible, the Qur’an and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge. (1993). Fixot.